Sunday 12 September 2021

The incident at Station X

Introduction

On a barely-charted jungle planet, remote from normal shipping lanes, the Federation have permitted the establishment of a private research station.  Ostensibly this group of scientists, led by the fiercely intelligent Professor Frinkle, are there to develop new medicines and cures.

A garbled message from the base is received by the USS Matakishi - a Federation starship commanded by the inspiring Captain Bellamy.  It reads:

"...madness...overstepped...chemical...unwilling...too much...help...".

The ship's comms officer has determined that the transmission is being jammed.  By looking at a list of base personnel, it is thought to have been sent by Doctor Smith, the research centre's second-in-command.  Bellamy decides to investigate immediately and leads a small away team to the planet's surface.

However, he's not the only one to show an interest.  The Klingon vessel P'Rang has also intercepted the message and her captain Mor'tah has ordered that "Federation combat drugs" research is in violation of some treaty or other and must be seized, for the safety of the Empire.

Setup

This was a 3-player game of Pulp Alley, using my newly-completed Alien Jungle and my slightly older Salad Box Science Base.  The terrain was set up as follows:

  • Most areas of vegetation would be difficult (i.e. if anyone ran through them then they would take a peril).
  • 2 of the areas of vegetation (the one with the pit beast and the one with the Venusian death lilies) were dangerous.  No running was permitted and even walking would trigger a peril.
  • All building interiors were also difficult.
6 minor objectives were set up in buildings and around the base:

  • A microscope and samples were in the Geology building
  • A computer terminal was in the Command building
  • A filing cabinet was in the Admin building
  • A cloning tank was in the Science building.
  • A hyperwave jammer was at the eastern end of the base clearing.
  • The base's power supply was at the western end of the complex.
The major objective was Doctor Smith, who was in the open at the very centre of the research base.

The Leagues

Federation Away Team

  • Captain Bellamy is inspiring, quick-witted and a lucky devil.  He can shoot and brawl a bit, but his strengths are really in problem-solving.
  • Science Officer Tring is extremely smart, but probably lacks some social graces (well, he is an alien, after all).
  • Doctor Johnson is a hard-nosed medical officer.  He probably spends much of his life being quietly exasperated by everyone and everything else in the universe.
  • Lieutenant Rashi leads the security detail.  He's impetuous and a daredevil, so it's a bit of a wonder that he has survived even his first few years in Star Fleet.
  • 3 redshirts are also included in the party, to provide the inevitable "meat shield".  Their skills are, well, mediocre (as you might expect from a bunch of goons).

Professor Frinkle's Base Experiments

The mad professor is determined to preserve the autonomy of his research from outside interference of any sort.  To that end, he has the following resources:

  • Professor Frinkle is your standard crazy geneticist who won't be shackled by anything so paltry as morality.  He is a deductive and an inventor.  For this game he used his inventing skill to come up with some mind-enhancing drugs for himself.  Frinkle has also set up cameras and booby traps all over the base; this is represented by his cursed presence ability.
  • B-9 is the professor's sinister robot.  It is armoured and can project some form of electrical field (long burst).
  • Miaou Miaou is a harmless pet - probably one of the professor's early experiments.  It looks a bit like a cross between a seal and a penguin, but is surprisingly agile.
  • Eygar is a faithful lab assistant.  She is clever and crafty, though somewhat faint-of-heart.
  • The professor has been using other base personnel as experimental subjects.  3 of them are present as reanimated plague zombies.

Klingon Expeditionary Force

  • Captain Mor'tah is a classic, "bad guy" Klingon.  He's intimidating, savage and veteran, which together make him quite a fighter.  He's also very cunning, though not particularly subtle.
  • Maal is the captain's loyal second-in-command.  He is intelligent, cold and calculating, ruthless and indomitable.
  • Science officer Sira is extremely bright, but not as tough as the other members of the Klingon party.
  • Vagh is a close combat specialist who believes that fighting with the bat'leth is the only true way to gain honour.
  • "Targ" is a strange, pig-like beast picked up by the captain on his travels and regarded as a pet.  It's not a real, Klingon targ of course - that's just the captain's little joke.  Actually, it's quite a dangerous animal.
  • Leyra is the Klingon's answer to the Federation's redshirts: a security goon with little expectation of surviving an episode.

The Game

Unsurprisingly, given the setup, the first turn was spent with most characters heading for the inevitable "scrum in the middle".  Turn 2 started to become interesting:

  1. The Klingon pig-beast charged around the corner of the Science building, straight into Eygar.  Both were knocked down, but the pig-beast just shook itself and regained its feet. The faint-of-heart lab assistant didn't bother to get up again.
  2. Science officer Sira tried to switch off the base's power supply - but each time failed a peril and was knocked down.  Even though she stood back up and tried again several times more, eventually the repeated zaps knocked her out (i.e. she kept failing perils and taking damage; eventually she failed a recovery roll).  It seems that the mad professor's booby traps were working as intended!
  3. Captain Mor'tah strode into the middle of the clearing, grabbed Doctor Smith and shook him into submission.  Of course, this immediately made him a prime target for every other faction - but Mor'tah embraced this position and returned all fire with glee.
  4. Both Doctor Johnson and Miaou Miaou made for the filing cabinet in the Admin block.  Neither had any luck, as both of them went down to hidden hazards in the darkened building.


The pig-beast charged into the nearest thing is could see, but Professor Frinkle was a tougher customer than his lab assistant.  He swatted the creature down with ease.

Meanwhile, B-9 rumbled forwards and then unleashed a deadly electro-bolt.  The ray narrowly missed Mor'tah, but completely fried the hapless Leyra.


Over in the Admin block, Doctor Johnson and Miaou Miaou both regained their senses at about the same time.  There was a brief scuffle which resulted in the strange alien pet bolting through the door, leaving the doctor alone in front of the filing cabinet.  However, despite several attempts the increasingly-frustrated doctor just couldn't figure out how to break into the locked cabinet.

As another moment of comic relief (perhaps?), one of the plague zombies chased a redshirt across the board in slow motion.  Neither had much chance of hurting the other, though the redshirt kept dodging backwards so as to use his phaser and the zombie repeatedly stumbled forwards to close the distance.


Then the robot lurched forwards.  It suffered some form of malfunction and splattered corrosive fluids all over itself, Professor Frinkle and Mor'tah, as well as making that area perilous for the remainder of the game (this was a fortune card, though I forget exactly which one).  The robot and the professor were unharmed, but the Klingon captain caught a face full of the poisonous goo.

What with the noxious chemicals and phaser fire from Lt. Rashi & Captain Bellamy, Mor'tah sank to his knees and then collapsed, releasing his grip on Doctor Smith.


With a detour into the Science building to look at the cloning tank, the Klingon pig-beast squealed its challenge and charged at Professor Frinkle.  It may have been intent on revenge for its fallen master, but once again the hopped-up professor smacked it down into the dirt.  This time the creature didn't stand up again.


B-9 now turned its attention on Captain Bellamy and Lt. Rashi.  It shot down the lieutenant before unleashing its electro bolt on the Federation captain.  Luckily, the captain survived, as did a nearby plague zombie which happened to be in the line of fire.  Honestly, I think at this point that the player of the Mad Science league was so annoyed with the plague zombies' hopeless performance that he was even trying to kill them himself.  Ah, well - what else would you do with a failed experiment except turn them back into spare parts?


In the last turn of the game, the Federation started to retreat.  Science officer Tring had managed to solve a minor plot point (the microscope in the Geology building), though not without a considerable amount of difficulty.  I think it took him 2 or 3 turns.

He now retreated to the relative safety of the away team's shuttle, having discovered several interesting facts about the microbiology of the planet's soil and the curious organisms which coexisted below the surface.

At the same time, Doctor Johnson gave up trying to open the records cabinet ("Dammit, Captain!  I'm a doctor, not a filing clerk!"); he also moved towards safety.

Conclusion

Even though Professor Frinkel held the centre ground, he had been totally unable to solve the major plot point.  I suspect that by this time Doctor Johnson had lost all means of cooperating with any of the leagues.  Indeed, I imagine he was quite dead, having been phasered, covered in corrosive robot fluids and then zapped with an electro bolt.

Likewise, Maal had spent several turns trying to understand the computer terminal in the Command centre.  Despite his advanced abilities, he just couldn't gain anything useful from it and failed to solve the plot point.

So, the final scores were these:

  • Federation away team: 1 victory point (for Tring's minor objective - the microscope).
  • Klingon expeditionary force: 0 points.  Sira's early, repeated and ultimately fatal failures to switch off the power grid and Maal's incomprehension of the computer terminal were frustrating.  However, captain Mor'tah's showboating move into the middle did claim the major objective briefly before he was shot down.  I suppose that could be seen as reckless & irresponsible, or glorious & brave, depending on your point of view.
  • Mad Science base defenders: 0 points.  Miaou Miaou did attempt a couple of plot points early on, but was easily chased off when someone else came close.  Professor Frinkle left it too late to claim the major plot point (though he did achieve 2 of the 3 successes he needed) and B-9 was having too much fun zapping things to bother with such trivia.
In the end, the Federation won the game, even though they only held a single, minor plot point.  This wasn't for lack of trying by all three leagues, though.  I cannot remember another game of Pulp Alley where the plot points proved so perilous and the challenges were so hard!

Man/machine/animal of the match: runners up are the pig-beast (which just kept getting back up and charging the next opponent) and Professor Frinkle (who shrugged off every hit he took from every source.  Maybe his combat drugs do work after a fashion?).  The winner, however, has to be B-9.  The large, armoured robot trundled around the centre of the table and scared the cr*p out of everything nearby.

Most useless: I think Sira was a bit of a waste of space.  This Klingon science officer failed to understand the base's power supply and indeed kept getting zapped whenever she prodded it.  Eventually this was too much and she was knocked out of action, without having contributed anything at all.

14 comments:

  1. Really cool battle report. Would love to try this out at some point �� looks really fun!

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    1. Thanks, glad you liked it! Yes, everyone should try Pulp Alley at least once, I think.

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  2. That game was a lot of fun. Amazing how dice rolls can throw a wrench into the works. I'll have to get out my copy of Pulp Alley solo for a game soon.

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    1. The difficulties were caused as much by the sheer number of perils with the most difficult "3 successes needed", rather than unusually low dice rolling. But it was fun anyway! Thanks.

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  3. Great report, I enjoyed reading it.

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  4. This is fantastic! Multi-player Pulp Alley is awesome. Love your scenario and models.

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    1. Thanks. I think I could have arranged it a bit more cleverly to avoid everyone just crowding into the middle, but it was still a fun game.

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  5. Fantastic report, and wonderful visuals.

    Don't you just hate it when your minions cannot make their rolls.
    It brings a tear to my eye when I have to terminate my failures.
    But, you know, price of failure in this organisation etc.
    Nobody gets the Evil Overlord's corner office by getting attached to their minions.

    Mwahahahah!!!

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    1. Thanks, Steve. The plague zombies in this game were just level-1 followers and thus would be expected to be fairly rubbish. It's just that the models looked as if they were more capable/scary/powerful than their stats permitted.

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  6. What a great romp, with a lot of 'B' Sci-Fi moments and the dice gods being in a particularly fickle mood it seems.
    Love the set-up and the scenario.

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    1. Thanks. Yes, I had very much hoped to make it feel like a B movie, especially with the design of the leagues. I was particularly pleased with the mad scientist and his sinister robot :-) !

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  7. Great AAR. And cool pictures.
    πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ˜ŽπŸ˜ŽπŸ˜ŽπŸ˜Ž

    What minis were you using for the mad professors minions? Plus, I recognise the vehicles and Klingons used (great use of the Jedi Starfighters as Klingon shuttles!), but what minis are those used for the Starfleet landing party?
    πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”

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    1. Thanks for your comment (and sorry that it's taken me a while to respond). So, where do the figures originate:

      - Most of the mad professor's forces are Mantic models, from the Star Saga game.
      - Miaou Miaou is an odd little creature from the wonderful "Anyaral: World of Twilight" range. They have a good variety of plausible, yet thoroughly alien & wierd animals.
      - I cannot remember where the robot (B-9) comes from; it's an old model. Possibly Black Cat Bases or somewhere like that?
      - I think that Captain Bellamy himself is an old model from Matakishi's Tea House. I'm not sure if it's available any more.
      - The other Federation miniatures are from Victory Force. Sadly I believe that this U.S. manufacturer is no longer in business and I haven't heard that their ranges have been taken on by anyone else.

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